CHICHESTER, N.H. — Every sport has its ultimate challenge.
For runners, it’s the Boston Marathon. For mountain climbers, there’s Mount Everest. Professional golfers have St Andrews Links in Scotland.
For miniature golf aficionados, it’s Chuckster’s Family Fun Park, a modest amusement facility on Route 4 in this small town, just minutes from Concord.
Chuckster’s is where you will find the longest miniature golf hole in the world. No. 13 is a par 3 that is more than 200 feet long and doglegs sharply to the right. But, amazingly, its distance is only part of its challenge: the “fairway” includes water traps, “roughs,” and the very real chance that your ball will get caught in a water hazard that carries it down a small stream and under a tiny wooden covered bridge before it gets dropped back onto the green.
Perhaps most significantly, the 201-foot hole sits on a slope.
Mark Blasko, the creator and owner of Chuckster’s, says that he found inspiration for his New England landmark in a flash. What began as a relaxing evening at the Hilltop Fun Center in Somersworth became a turning point after his two children, then ages 4 and 6, teed off at a miniature golf hole on top of a slight incline.
As soon as their balls began rolling, the children took out after them.
“They hit the ball, and they ran after it,” Blasko recalled. “It was a fun experience for them and that got me thinking: I wonder what the longest miniature golf hole in the world is?”
At the time, it turned out to be at a place called the Rocky Gorge 4 Seasons Golf Fairway in Laurel, Md. A hole there measured 184 feet long.
“So we went them a little better,” Blasko said. “We went 201 feet.”
The local entrepreneur never intended Chuckster’s to become a focus of interest among mini golf fans. A former ski industry employee — he worked at the Gunstock Mountain Resort in Gilford, N.H., and at Waterville Valley — he owned a custom casual clothing business near the current Chuckster’s site before he began thinking about a miniature golf course in the Concord area. And even then, it was only with the idea of creating a profitable ancillary business.
“I was sold on Route 4 because I was always struck by the traffic on it — especially every time I was coming home and had to turn left onto it,” Blasko said. “And there are not many highways leading out or into Concord where there’s still land available.
“Then one day, I was coming home and saw the sign that this property was for sale. So I pulled over,” he recalled.
“At that time there was the building [which now serves as Chuckster’s food service center] and the front lot, which was part grass and part wooded. . . . But I could visualize this whole thing right away,” he said. “I tied it up that day.”
To bring his vision to life, Blasko began visiting other mini golf courses. He soon discovered that miniature golf is huge in the United States; a 2006 survey reported that one-quarter of Americans play at least once a year.
“But they’re usually pretty easy courses that are designed to get as many people as you can in and out quickly,” Blasko said.
He knew he needed to do something different to draw people back on a regular basis, so he went to work with Harris Miniature Golf Co. of Wildwood, N.J., which had built more than 800 courses. He liked their materials and the look and feel of their courses, but they were doubtful about his idea of creating a genuinely challenging course — eschewing windmills and inane themes (including the dinosaurs and space ships currently popular in resort towns) — in favor of slopes, hills, dips, faux sand traps, covered wooden bridges, and fountains and flowing water throughout.
“When I told them that I wanted to do the longest hole in the world they said it was a bad idea,” Blasko said. “And I had some other ideas they said wouldn’t work. . . . They said that my approach was kind of strange.”
But before they were done, Chuckster’s was built on 13 acres of land — nearly twice the size of most miniature golf courses — incorporating a thousand tons of boulders originally located on the property with nine streams and ponds, hundreds of plants and trees, and about 12,000 square feet of “carpeting” — again, about twice what most miniature golf courses have.
“Every one of my ideas worked out,” Blasko said. “And now they are borrowing my ideas for other courses they’re doing.”
Chuckster’s opened nine years ago and is open into October. A full schedule can be found online at www.chuckstersnh.com. A round of mini golf costs $8.50. The fee for ages 5 and under is $5.Ray Carbone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.